Tag Archives: Educational Leadership

Heart drawn in red pastels.

It’s About the People Who Surround You

As 2023 comes to a close, I find myself in a bittersweet moment of my life. I have been asked to fill in as an interim principal at an amazing elementary school in my district for the remainder of the school year. While I am humbled, honored, anxious, and seriously excited, leaving students and staff of my current school is not easy. In fact, it’s really hard. The past four and a half years have been the most rewarding of my career. Being an assistant principal of a middle school before, during, and especially after COVID restrictions presented experiences no one ever would have imagined. The books we could write! While it was hard, it was the best job I had ever had. Mostly because I was able to navigate the storms with some of the best people around. My team of educators and support staff made every day fun and rewarding. I am a true believer that you can do anything if you have the right people by your side. While my future is unwritten after June, I need to say goodbye to these incredible humans for now.

Eich Fam,

I will try to get through the day without crying too much, but I wanted to send a “Shout Out” to all of you.

I started at Eich in Fall 2019. That eighth-grade class taught me patience, how to write up suspensions correctly in PowerSchool, and how to love a student even when he breaks your heart. Then all of a sudden, it was March and we were home, trying to get kids to engage on Zoom, all while making tons of videos. (Remember all the videos? Darren missed his calling).

We made it through mask mandates, social distancing, mask protests, and learning loss. (Well, we’re still working on that last one). We have slowly made our way back to this “normal” with our village furnishing students with endless amounts of grace and understanding. Oh, and kindness. Always kindness.

Through all of it, you guys have been my family. You have kept the laughter flowing and the love for students growing. You have taught me to believe in myself, reflect on my shortcomings, persevere, and improve. I owe each of you so much. I could not have asked for a better group of people on this crazy middle school journey. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

So, cheers to some of the greatest years of my life! My Eich family has made it worth every moment!

Much love,

Kristina xoxo

Cheers to the past four and a half years and to a new beginning this January. The best thing about making friends at work is they can still be friends outside of work!

Placer County Courthouse Auburn, CA

When Civic Duty Chooses You

Standing in the queue at the courthouse, I was so relieved there were so many people there. That’s a feeling I don’t often have: wanting to be surrounded by a large crowd. I figured the more people in the room the less likely I would be picked. Strangely, though, there was this part of me that knew, just knew it would be my turn. After 33 years of dodging, being excused, and deferring, I was going to be selected to serve on a jury.

As a fan of courtroom shows, real-life court cases, and true crime stories, I was definitely intrigued to be in this situation. Witnessing the judicial process in real time was exciting and educational. But what I was being asked to do was not easy.  At one point during jury selection, the defense attorney asked me how I felt about serving. My reply was, “I am a learner so I’m excited to go through this process, but I feel horribly guilty and hope my team isn’t going to be mad at me.” The idea that I was abandoning my responsibilities, and asking others to pick up the slack while I got a “jury vacation” hit me hard. 

Oh, I forgot to mention: this was a 4-week trial, with only Monday mornings and Wednesdays off. Brutally long. 

I learned many things while serving on a jury. The first is that court attorneys talk too much. I mean way too much. Opening arguments went on for over 30 minutes from each side. If you are a student of Cognitive Load Theory or just a teacher who understands students, you know that the human brain cannot process new information for that long. Even as the trial progressed, I often zoned out, even nodded off, due to having no opportunities to process information. Keep in mind this was a highly technical trial with lots of tedious information. (There were literally carts full of binders as evidence). Luckily we were provided with paper and pens. I wrote over 15 pages of notes during the course of the trial, more than most of my college coursework. Of course, there may have been more doodles than actual information.

Another lesson I learned was the power of a collective group. The weight of deciding if someone’s life would be forever altered by criminal charges, jail time, and financial ruin is not an easy burden to hold. There were many nights I lay awake thinking of the seriousness of the task at hand. We were tasked with making sure there was no reasonable doubt. None. As a compassionate and empathetic person, it was not always easy to separate those feelings from facts. However, once we were able to deliberate and discuss as an entire jury, it was so comforting to know we were making a collective decision. I was lucky that we all saw the case the same way and easily came to a verdict.

I still feel horribly guilty for the time I missed at work.  The stress of the responsibility of serving was also no joke. By the end of the four weeks, I was emotionally drained and happy to get back to normal. I am thankful for the learning and growth of the experience, but I certainly would never want to do it again during the school year.

If you want to read about the case, this article is a short summary. If you want to know more, hit me up and we can discuss it over a beverage.

school bus

The Highs and Lows of Driving a Broken Bus

Recently, I was asked what I thought were my highs and lows of this school year. Taking a moment, I realized for someone who is normally reflective and contemplative, I had not even given myself the chance this year to do either. It seems that this year was more like driving a bus at high speeds, on fire, with its wheels falling off. No time to stop and think. No time to breathe. It was truly the hardest year of my 18 years in education. I know I am not alone in this. Please. Hug a teacher and anyone who works in schools. Just ask the custodians about the side effects of this year. Flying carrots, bags and packaged food debris, and the amount of food waste, made for extra messy campuses. But I digress.

I was able to quickly find my low. It was the only time where I felt it. I internalized it all. It was the only moment that I knew I could do nothing to help my teachers and students. It was the week of the mask protests. What started as five to eight kids in the library, quickly started to gain momentum. My admin team, counselors and I were taking turns trying to provide students with the curriculum. We were talking to our parents, trying to not make enemies of our families. Many of those conversations were not pleasant, with so many people filled with emotion. Yet, this was not our fight. We only wanted what was best for all children, while following the direction of the state. By day three we had over 50 protestors and by day five a quarter of our school was showing up in the multi-purpose room, ready to join. A few were truly protesting, but as these things go, many saw it as a way to hang out with their friends and not go to class. There was little learning happening that week. It was truly the most frustrating and lowest moment of the year.

Nonetheless, I will always remember the highs. These are too many to list, for sure. I can assure you that most include my admin team and counselors, as does the one that stands at the forefront. My biggest success this year was standing at promotion and looking out at so many faces of kids who grew academically and emotionally this year. In August, we had a fight on the second day of school. The second day! And it didn’t stop there. From fighting, to “Devious Licks” vandalism, to foul language and bullying, there were a lot of students who sat in my office, along with my partner’s, and my principal’s office. A lot. There were a lot of parent meetings. A lot of meetings with students and teachers. A lot of counselor referrals. A lot of tears were shed, parents and students alike. My partner and I learned more about restorative practices this school year than I learned during the last five years. We were fixing those bus tires while the bus was on fire and still moving. We began to get very creative with our thinking. We had students work with our Functional Skills classes, gaining empathy and responsibility. We had students research the history of words and apologize to other students that were hurt. There were days and months of students watching videos, reflecting, responding, and apologizing. For many students, appropriate behavior became their most important subject in school.

Our teachers were putting in overtime, too. Working with students to build relationships, reteaching expectations, and simply not giving up on kids. I must add as well that we have two new, phenomenal counselors on my site. In my career, I have never seen two people work as hard as those counselors did this year. (I keep telling them that it isn’t always like this!) The efforts we made with students were immense. I am so proud of the work we put in, the creative thinking involved and the commitment my staff had to meet the needs of every student.

I am so grateful for the work this year and the knowledge that resulted from all that work. Of course, I am looking forward to a smoother year, a year where the bus is already in good shape, and we just need to add gas. Although, if the bus happens to break down, I am not concerned. We have the tools ready to work on it!

Hand up in tall grass

The First Five Months

The common theme on social media seems to be reflecting on this last decade. Well, this isn’t one of those posts. Yes, it is a reflection, but as an educator, Winter Break is the perfect time to take a moment, breathe and look back at the first half of the school year. (For the record, though, I had a pretty darn good decade–started it as a stay at home mom and finished it as an administrator. Crazy.)

After a long career as a teacher, I took the plunge in August and went to the dark side. I landed a sweet gig as an assistant principal at an awesome middle school in my district. Don’t get me wrong the “sweet” has nothing to do with it being easy. It’s just a great place to work. 

Still, I get asked often about my new adventures. Mostly, these three questions:

So, why did I do it? Teaching is amazing. I loved planning lessons and getting to know my students, among the many great things about the profession. In addition, I’m a systems person. I love programs that benefit all and are efficient for the implementers. Heck, that’s why I’ve always been a fan of Universal Design for Learning. I wanted to affect positive change on a larger level than just my classroom. Don’t get me wrong, I was always that squeaky wheel when I was a teacher, but now I have time to focus on bigger ideas and creating systems to help all. It’s incredible.

Is it what I expected? When I’m asked this question my answer is normally yes and no. I’ve been in education long enough to understand how things work at most levels. What I didn’t expect was how incredibly reactionary the job can be. You might start the day with a good size to-do list, but you may have five different situations that develop in the first hour. As a teacher, I was far more in control of my day. Honestly, though, I’ve grown to love the craziness. The spontaneity is one of the greatest parts of the job. It’s awesome.

Do I like it? Without a doubt, I LOVE it. I spend my days helping people: kids and adults. How many people can say that about their job? My greatest fear was that I wouldn’t get to build solid relationships with kids, like I did in the classroom. That fear was seriously off the mark. I get to have longer, more meaningful conversations with kids that really need those connections. I never had time for that as a teacher! It’s fantastic.

If it isn’t already apparent, I’ve had a pretty good first five months. I can’t wait to see what the next five will bring. Long live the dark side!

Red light saber